On the Friday, 9th of June, 1944, (three days after the 'D' Day landing in Normandy) Crew 60 of Squadron 640 took off from Leconfield RAF base in Yorkshire, England, on a night mission.
They departed at 0012 hours and returned at 0537 hrs after successfully bombing the intended target of Laval Airfield, south-west of Paris, France.
The crew were flying a Halifax Heavy Bomber aircraft with the designation MZ 561.
A. C Webb - Pilot
P. R. Lanyon - Air Bomber
H. S. Ratcliffe - Navigator
D. H. Laver - Wireless Operator
D.J. Svenson - Mid Upper Gunner
J. Gray - Rear Gunner (Not pictured)
J. Brotherton - Flight Engineer
Target - Laval Airfield. The effort was made by a total of 100 Halifaxes of No. 4 Group on the same target, with 16 Squadron aircraft ...
Time over Target for Squadron aircraft 03:00 to 03.08 hours.
No. of aircraft attacked primary - 15.
No. of aircraft abortive - 1
Bomb Load - 'B' (Crew 60) were to carry 14 x 500 G.P., 2 X 500 L.D. G.P.
Weather - Thick cloud in layers over France with occasional rain. Conditions improved in target area where 10/10 at 7000 and patches of thin (?) at 3000 ft. Visibility moderate.
Result of Attack - Attack difficult to assess. Bombing yellow T.I's but only seeing these momentarily owing to cloud and haze. Four aircraft report explosion at target area 03:04 to 03:07. Two aircraft saw ground detail - river and building. Some aircraft reported difficulty in hearing master bomber, until just before bombing because of interference. 640/D claims Ju 88 destroyed over target area, otherwise no opposition from enemy aircraft. Some L/F and target area up to approx. 8,000 ft.
Summary from the Squadron ORB (Operations Record Book) for the month of June, 1944.
West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 - 1954), Monday 12 June 1944, page 5
LONDON, June 11.
Bomber Command Lancasters and Halifaxes in strength on Friday night attacked four airfields in north France, the nearest some 35 miles from the battle area, states the Air Ministry. The object of the attacks was to "crater" the airfields with high explosives to prevent aircraft from taking off and thus deprive the enemy of the most convenient bases for aircraft intervening in the battle. The airfields are to the south of the battle area at Flers, Rennes, Laval and Le Mans. The bombers had to fly through thick cloud and extremely heavy rain.
One pilot said there seemed to be a big battle going on in the Cherbourg area and a bombardment of the French coast from the sea.
Simultaneously with the attacks on the airfields Lancasters heavily raided railway centres with the object of blocking German military traffic from south to north and from east to west.
Medium-sized forces of USAAF Flying Fortresses and Liberators yesterday attacked aerodromes in Brittany and Normandy, also gun positions in the defended areas near the north coast. The bombing of the gun positions was done by instrument through the clouds. Medium sized forces of Mustangs, Lightnings and Thunderbolts escorted the bombers. (It is estimated that between 250 and 500 heavy bombers participated with approximately the same number of escort aircraft.)
It was officially announced today that Ninth Air Force Marauders and Havocs in strength yesterday resumed close support of the ground forces in Normandy, attacking targets from one to 15 miles behind the fighting lines, including railway yards and tracks, roads, heavy gun positions and troop and tank concentrations. Thunderbolts and Lightnings also struck against the enemy defences in the zone of operations.
Members of the RAAF participated in Friday night's attacks on the French airfields, also in defensive patrols over the battle areas. A Mosquito of an Australian squadron which has 22 previous successes to its credit for 1944, was piloted by a South Australian, Flight-Lt R. B. Cowper, DFC. Heading towards the eastern tip of the peninsula he spotted a Dornier 217. "We were going in from the north and he was coming out from the south," said Cowper. "We whipped in behind him and finished him off with an exchange of fire. The Dornier went up in a sheet of flame after our first burst."
RAAF squadrons have destroyed nine enemy planes since June 6. The ninth, which was a Heinkel 177, was shot down in flames over the Channel last night, Australian Lancasters about the same time were bombing the railway yards at Acheres and Orleans as part of Bomber Command's strong attack on the through railways the enemy is using to convey troops and supplies to the battle area .